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Parenthood, Ep. 5.01, “It Has to be Now” a promising premiere for one of the networks’ best

Parenthood, Ep. 5.01, “It Has to be Now” a promising premiere for one of the networks’ best

Mae Whitman in Parenthood, S05E01, "It Has to be Now" promo pic

Parenthood, Season 5, Episode 1: “It Has to be Now”
Written by Jason Katims
Directed by Lawrence Trilling
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (EST) on NBC

“It Has to be Now” picks up a few months down the line from last season’s emotional finale, “Because You’re My Sister” and, in typical premiere fashion, checks in on each of our characters. There are a few surprises (Ray Romano is back as Hank- turns out Minnesota was a bust), but for the most part, everyone’s where viewers might have expected, waiting at the brink of many of life’s biggest changes.

The most dramatic, and most predicted, change this season will undoubtedly be the birth of Crosby and Jasmine’s daughter, Aida. “Eight-hour Crosby” having to deal with a baby, particularly given his initial lack of connection, should be fertile ground for the writers- we’ve seen this storyline before, but the added element of Crosby’s relationship with Jabbar should spice things up. Crosby may not be new to parenting entirely, but babies are an entirely different beast. Watching his progression from the apparent manchild of early seasons (confession: I still haven’t caught up on the first few seasons, though I look forward to the eventual marathon) to last season’s semi-responsible husband, father, and business partner, to this season’s struggling infant caregiver must be satisfying and the show’s dedication to keeping things honest, but interesting is much appreciated.

Another example of Parenthood’s truthful storytelling is Julia’s situation. As an audience, we cheered last year when she chose her family over her demanding job and said goodbye to the boss who didn’t understand. Saving her career consequences until this season was wise- we got to stay blissfully unaware, with Julia, of just how difficult it would be for her to come back, making her interview and later non-hiring particularly effective. The casting of Sonya Walger as Joel’s new business partner raises an eyebrow- she’s a fantastic actress and could be a great addition, however a role like this, on lesser shows, almost always leads to potential marital infidelity. One of the strengths of Parenthood, and Friday Night Lights before it, is the eschewing of ploys like this. The stable married couples on these shows don’t cheat around sweeps week. Hopefully that’s not about to change.

Ray Romano and Max Burkholdt in Parenthood S05E01, "It Has to be Now" promo pic

The other clear Romantic Interest introduced is Sarah’s tenant. It’s somewhat random for her to be a super now, but none of her career choices have followed the most logical path and the notion of her carting around a ladder and fixing smoke detectors all season is entertaining. It would be nice to get a bit of the backstory between her and Hank filled in, but that may be yet to come. Ray Romano has been a fantastic addition to the series and while it doesn’t make particular sense for him to be back in Berkeley, and seriously undermines much of his growth throughout last season, it’s hard to care as soon as he gets a scene with Max Burkholder. It’s important to have a foil to the Braverman clan and Hank fits that role to a tee. Jasmine at times serves a similar purpose, but the dose of cynicism and grouchiness that Hank brings tempers the warm fuzzies of the rest of the show’s family togetherness nicely.

Last season was the cancer season, no question. Monica Potter and Peter Krause hit their scenes out of the park, as Kristina struggled with her diagnosis and treatment. Of all the various storylines this season, figuring out where to take these two characters must have been the trickiest for the writers- jumping back into life with both feet, as Kristina chooses this week, seems like a great way to go, and it’s particularly fitting for the Carpe Diem approach Kristina embraced last year. There are undoubtedly many ups and downs to come, and the notion of her actually winning the election seems somewhat ridiculous, but going in this very different direction from last season should be a lot of fun. It was a lovely surprise, by the way, to see Rose Abdoo pop up in the premiere as Kristina’s chemo buddy, their roles now reversed. Hopefully she’ll recur throughout the season, and not just when Kristina needs to make a life-changing decision.

The highlight of the premiere, however, is without question the final moments with Amber. Mae Whitman is always a joy on this series, but her reaction to Ryan’s proposal is particularly moving. Many shows, particularly the prestige drama heavy-hitters, are fantastic at small, devastating moments. Very few have any interest in happiness- these moments are shrugged off or downplayed. Parenthood gives just as much weight to the beauty in its characters’ lives as the pain. Are Amber and Ryan headed for sunshine, rainbows, and puppy dogs? Probably not. But in this moment, at least one (and hopefully both) of them is transcendently happy, and that’s absolutely worthy of note. Parenthood may not be the flashiest of the network dramas, but its quiet commitment to character makes it one of the absolute best, and this premiere promises another strong season to come.

What did you think of this episode? How long before we get the real story on Hank and Sarah? Are you dreading a Julia-Joel-Peet love triangle as much as I am? Who else wants to see some of Max’s photos? Post your thoughts below!

Kate Kulzick